WE ENDORSE : CHARLIE BAKER FOR GOVERNOR

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The editors of this paper often disagree on political matters; but about who should be Massachusetts’s next Governor, we are in full accord : Charlie Baker is our choice.

Massachusetts state government badly needs new energy and a new way of doing its business. During the past four years, and especially the last two, we have watched numerous breakdowns in state administration : DCF losing track of children in its care; scandal at the state’s crime lab, that has put hundreds of criminal convictions in doubt; mistreatment of inmates — in one case, resulting in death — at Bridgewater State Hospital; at least 200 million taxpayer dollars wasted on a failed Health Connector website — and loss of health insurance for thousands of us; lastly, a confused and often contentious Transportation funding bill that left us with too little money to do the necessary repairs and upgrades and much of that money coming from a taxing method opposed by at least half our state’s citizens.

Charlie Baker is exactly the right person to tackle this systemic breakdown. He oversaw the successful turnaround of Harvard-Pilgrim Health Care, from bankruptcy to rated as the top health care management enterprise in the state, serving one million Massachusetts people. Before that, as a top administrator working for Governors Weld and Cellucci, he learned how to make failed systems work better, often in crisis mode day after day. There were, as we have learned during this campaign, failures along the way, many of them caused by the state’s lack of monitoring systems. From those failures, Baker learned, as skilled managers must, and his work at Harvard-Pilgrim shows it.

Remaking state government’s delivery of services will not be easy or quick. The state’s outmoded technology must be upgraded radically. Interface between agencies and the public must become user-friendly and quick. Budgeting must be made transparent — as it isn’t now. Before the primary, Democratic hopeful Juliette Kayyem called this transformation “better data management.” That it is, and Charlie Baker has sworn to do it.

It’s his bottom line, a task that he believes in passionately, as he has demonstrated at Forums and debates.

Baker knows that state administration failure doesn’t only waste money (though it does that too); it also disrespects all of us. Baker’s opponent has charged that he sees “numbers, not people” ; but is not a faiulure of “numbers” equally a broken promise to our people ? Baker gets this equation.

Baker is willing to admit past mistakes — in politics, a very uncommon thing. If a reformer is to win the confidence of those he hopes to serve, it begins with trust in the person; and by admitting his past mistakes, as he has, Baker uncommonly earns our trust.

Meanwhile, his opponent, Martha Coakley, in debates now and all year long before the primary, has refused to admit to anything and declined to commit to major policy questions. She has offered a plan having worthy objectives — but no suggestion at all how she will accomplish them. On several issues, the scourge of drug addiction most blatantly, she doesn’t seem conversant with what is actually happening. As for state administrative failures, Coakley says nothing, offers no correctives.

Coakley has won some worthy battles as Massachusetts’s Attorney General. She has successfully fought foreclosure abuses by major banks, winning multi-billions of dollars in settlements. Her office’s Civil Rights chief — Maura Healey, soon likely to be our next Attorney General — argued and won the landmark 2004 case that made Massachusetts the first state to sanction marriage equality. But just as often, Coakley has gone down a wrong road. One instance especially needless was her prosecution of former state Treasutrer Tim Cahill for ethics violations civil in nature — charges of which he was acquitted.

A reformist Governor must, az we said, have the confidence of the people, and of State employees at all levels, if he or she is to accomplish these reforms. Yet Coakley was the choice, at her party’s nominating convention, of only 23 percent of the delegates. She barely avoided finishing third. Those who know her best gave her the opposite of a vote of confidence.

Mean while, Charlie Baker has amassed a following prodigious in its size and breadth. Those who know him best, the people of his home town, Swampscott, and on the North Shore nearby, have given him more than 6,000 of his 30,000 individual campaign donations. Baker has campaigned intensely in the state’s biggest cities — over 150 campaign events in Boston alone, in every part of the city. Not many of last year’s Boston Mayor candidates waged a campaign more inclusive or intense than Baker for Governor this year.

Baker has done much the same in Springfield, Worcester, New Bedford, Fall River, Lowell, Lynn, Brockiton, Revere, and Quincy. These “gateway” cities, and others less populous, are home to the state’s people most in need of effective delivery of state services. they’re also the engines of economic growth. Baker makes no mistake in according them his campaign’s top priority. Baker shares city voter values as well. he’s solidly a champion of civil rights, of marriage equality, and of lifestyle diversity — innovation in the personal sphere — even as he touts a commitment to innovation in the economy.

Baker will be a “city governor,” as Deval patrick has sought to be. Which brings us to yet another reason for choosing Baker : as the candidate of the 63 percent of Massachusetts voters who are not Democrats (and supported by some Democrats as well), he has the clout to deal with the Speaker of the House.

In Massachusetts, the Speaker appoints every member of every House committee. If he doesn’t want a piece of legislation to pass, it doesn’t. A Democratic governor falls inside the same party boundary that the Speaker dominates. Time and again, the Speaker has embarrassed Governor Patrick, even stopped him cold. That is less likely to happen when the Governor draws his core support from outside the Democratic party. Governors Weld and Cellucci, even Romney, were able to get things done that the reform-mined Patrick has not..

For all of these reasons, we enthusiastically endorse Charlie Baker for massachusetts Governor.

—- the Editors / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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